Late afternoon sunshine on a campsite in Vienna, day two of the two-night music party in Club Bach and a long-awaited pause for breath: the first day without any driving… bliss.
For a while it felt as if our whole world had narrowed to a series of two, three, four lane roads snaking across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and then Austria: watching the satnav oh-so-slowly marking off the miles and minutes until our next destination, alternating tarmac and concrete marked off with service stations, parking spaces full of slumbering hauliers and a constant stream of McDonalds and Ikea reminding us that however alien the road signs we hadn’t travelled as far as it may feel. In a way it’s a disappointment: the realisation that all that makes these places exotic to us is that we have been too lazy to learn the language; I had the notion that I would prefer it if the natives would break off in mid-conversation, inflate great gas bladders and drift off into the atmosphere, be totally alien, incomprehensible.
The tour started on a high note: Paul had managed to find himself extra time off and secreted himself onto the bus: the news that we wouldn’t have to play a gentle acoustic set in Utrecht immediately uplifting. Getting used to driving our giant tour bus to Folkestone and then onto the train for the journey under the Channel: like a docking sequence from a sci-fi movie. Ever onwards; north through France and Belgium until fatigue compelled a stop in a truck stop.
Bacon and sausages, coffee and more driving to our first campsite: a strange place in Utrecht on the verge of closure where we were possibly the only campers, it was hard to tell.
Utrecht is beautiful: canals, old buildings and a never ending procession of beautiful girls smile as they ride bicycles past us. Has our fame spread already or are our ever-swivelling tourist necks simply comical? No, it’s just the polite, laid-back Utrecht way; smile, relax, enjoy.
We meet up with Duke at Henk’s house - he’s an elemental force, a wellspring of positivity. Henk arrives and on to the venue: Moira, balconied and shambolic, wonderful in every respect. Henk is constantly doing three things at once, there is trouble with the food, the PA, the bands haven’t all arrived. None of this dents Henk’s good nature. We pitch in and start doing what we can - the boys provide muscle and cheerful aid; I assist the engineer as we strive to turn the disparate collection of electronic detritus into a fully functioning PA system. The long day stretches on but finally, in the nick of time, it somehow all comes together. The Utrecht CS community have produced a fabulous, wholesome vegetarian meal. The acts start to show up: Tommy Beavitt songs in five languages, from beautiful, lilting folk to comical German and the memorable, Thackerayesque, ’Friends who Fuck’. Duke unleashes a roaring, passionate voice that freezes us in our tracks. Rueben dazzles us with a home-made guitar and an amazing retro-blues set and Skiff provide melody and harmony, a warm, relaxed vibe is building. We grow nervous that our somewhat louder, more confrontational music will provide too much of a contrast. We needn’t worry: the crowd are warm appreciative - we play to around 180 people. As ever, it’s over too quickly and almost before we’ve had time to enjoy the experience, it’s over: our hands are shaken, backs slapped, we are embraced.
It’s party time: local ska outfit Stampede bring the whole crowd to their feet and the place erupts: they put on a terrific set and we realise that there is a lesson here for us about showmanship. Finally Logathore close the evening with their techno-rock-opera… an act that defies pigeonholing; mysterious, challenging, eclectic - a perfect bookend.
A weary night in the motorhome and then Paul wins the golden bollard for reverse parking the 8.5 metre behemoth in a narrow, crowded street. Coffee with Henk and Bri and then loading gear and back on the road.
Endless driving follows, an epic journey punctuated by fitful sleep in a lorry park next to ’The Lust House’. It’s a nightclub, aparently…
Finally we descend into Vienna where we locate ’Camping West’ and then go in search of Club Bach. We love the venue immediately - a cousin of our home venue The Vaults, a low, tunnel like room with a well-set up PA. Again, there is much carrying of gear and sound checking. Our performance in Utrecht seems to have promoted us to top of the bill in Vienna or, more likely, we’re the only full band to play this evening.
Some of the acts are late: I get to do a little acoustic set, Paul from Logathore and his friends show their incredible versatility again. Then Tommy and Duke arrive, Henk and Reuben play, Logathore play again. We’re treated to witty, acerbic, allusive poetry from Jess, an American girl with a heartstopping smile.
Then it’s our turn. With space on stage and resolved to how off more we put on the performance of our lives: it’s fantastic. Roo, Paul and Caleb are grinning, moving, jigging, dancing, jumping. The audience start to get the idea. We have people dancing, jumping about. Beautiful girls are smiling at us: we feel like rock stars. Better still; the manager tells us that we’re the best band he’s had down there: we feel unstoppable.
Beer and celebration follows.
Today has been a gentle come-down: we’ve wandered the gorgeous streets of Vienna, goggle-eyed like tourists, eaten together and continued to laugh. Another night at Bach soon; more engineering for me but a night off for the boys. Next stop is a mercifully short hop to Pardubice and our last gig of the tour: can’t wait to play again although it’s a shame that is has to end so soon, just when we’re getting into our stride but there is the feeling that great things could follow. Watch this space…
Too many people to thank so if you’re reading this as someone who’s spoken to us, been part of this experience - thank you; it’s been indescribably good.